Council Updated on Cruise Ship Plan Implementation

Petitioner responds to harbormaster’s memo

BAR HARBOR—At their Tuesday night meeting, Town Council members briefly discussed the implementation of the cruise ship disembarkation plan that was approved by voters in November (1,780-1,273) after a citizens’ petition put the changes on cruise ship limitations to a vote.

Since the vote, the town is trying to enact the changes. Some of the first steps, Town Manager Kevin Sutherland said Tuesday night

Harbormaster Lt. Chris Wharff sent a December 15 memo to Police Chief James Willis detailing the hurdles to actualizing the new cruise ship disembarkation limits in Bar Harbor. Those limits were enacted after the town voted in favor of a citizens petition that limited disembarkations to 1,000 or less a day. If that daily limit is exceeded, there are fines of $100 per disembarkation.

The memo came after a December 9 meeting with Town Manager Kevin Sutherland and Willis. It also comes after a December 5 letter from the Penobscot Bay & River Pilots Association to Town Manager Kevin Sutherland stressing the organization’s concerns with the impacts of the changes. The organization has obtained legal council to look into challenging the new rules and regulations.

Chief petitioner Charles Sidman discussed many of the points in Wharff’s memo in his own response. Links to both memos in full are included at the end of the article.

Among the issues mentioned in Wharff’s memo are:

  • Who must get the permit to disembark passengers?
  • Who is disembarking? And what is the definition of persons?
  • Who can make a ship’s reservation? 
  • How will the system of counting disembarkations work?
  • What kind of evidence does the town need to prosecute violations?
  • Will there be limits on more than one tender facility operating at a time?
  • How do they tell ships they are ‘on notice’ and have reached the 1,000 cap?
  • How can they create procedure for violations to be reported to the Code Enforcement office?
  • Who makes new provisions to the changes?

In his notes to the council, Sutherland wrote,

“The takeaway at this time: Implementing the recently approved Land Use Ordinance Amendment will require a significant amount of work and will require time to develop systems and protocols, to hire and train staff, and to get it right.”

In his December 19 letter to the Town Council, Sidman said that the letter was “written to provide petitioners’ understanding and comments concerning various issues raised in harbormaster (and Lt.) Wharff’s thoughtful memo.”

Sidman’s letter questioned why the creation of the rules was originating in the police department, saying that these weren’t police matters, but should be formulated by town staff. Wharff is both a police lieutenant and harbormaster. Sidman also offered to be “directly involved in the rule-making process” to help save time and to be useful, he wrote.

During the council meeting, Town Manager Kevin Sutherland said he provided the letter so that the public could see that it will take time to address the changes and implement the ordinances. He stressed that many new ordinances take months to implement. Councilor Joe Minutolo asked if Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain has been involved in the implementation process. Sutherland replied that she has not been involved yet, and that the meeting with Wharff and PWillis was an initial step, one of many, and clarified that though ordinances often take time, he does not want a moratorium on the changes.

Historically, the police department and its representatives have been involved in multiple aspects of harbor activities including creating emergency management plans with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Sidman clarified Wharff’s question about the definition of persons by writing:

Sidman also wrote that the petitioners envisioned, the harbormaster “would only accept and approve (second stage) ‘reservation’ requests made for disembarkation at a (first-stage) pre-approved ‘facility.’ ”

Within his memo, Wharff spoke of evidence and prosecution of offenders when the town needed to prove that more than 1,000 disembarked. Sidman said that “non-police departments have the authority to levy administrative fines or change lawful fees without the requirements of criminal prosecutions.” He wrote that Wharff’s concern “seems misplaced.”  

During the Tuesday meeting, Councilor Jim Goldthwait asked about the embarkation and disembarkation of crew members in regards to international maritime traffic. She wondered how the crew members relate to the accounting of people coming ashore and how the Coast Guard’s seafarer’s access rule, which is meant to ensure the crew member’s health and rights, work with the town’s new rules.

There is no intentional dragging out of the process, she stressed, but the town has to be intentional in its implementation of the changes.

Councilor Gary Friedmann said that the town received a strong message from the voters and those voters are going to be looking closely at the council and town manager as they make real and honest efforts to implement this. Goldthwait agreed that it should be enacted as quickly as possible, but there were also legal challenges and considerations.

To Read the Lt. Wharff’s unannotated memo (go to page 70).

To read Mr. Sidman’s response (with his annotations on the memo), go here.

To read our Saturday story on Lt. Wharff’s memo, go here.

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